KHODORKOVSKY CASE: COURT MAKES BREAK TO THURSDAY

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MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow's Meschansky district court has made a break in hearings on the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev and Andrei Krainov, our correspondent reported from courtroom tonight. The hearings will resume Thursday, August 26.

During today's session, prosecutor Dmitri Shokhin demanded to read to the court minutes of a questioning of Vaghis Khakimov, former manager of the Murmansk regional property fund, who died in 2000. The defence offered a pointed protest. "Mr. Khakimov was questioned on his deathbed. Besides, his explanations cannot qualify as evidence," argued eminent Heinrich Padva, one of Khodorkovsky's lawyers.

The court, however, satisfied the prosecutor's request as the questioning record was in the file and so is to be treated on a par with other evidence.

Another request was denied the prosecution-to file the Khakimov death certificate, as it was not properly drawn.

Controversial tycoons Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of unlawful purchase of Apatite stock. The Apatite, a major fertiliser company, bases in the Murmansk Region, Russia's northwest.

As Vaghis Khakimov said in his statement, he headed the regional property fund from 1993 into March 1999. His duties included routine work organisation, and arrangement of a contest for a 20% Apatite block. One of the corporate bidders was turned down, and another three gave up the race. Volna Co., in which Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had interests, remained a sole bidder and so won the block.

A resultant investment programme was allegedly never implemented. The regional property fund repeatedly addressed the Volna with claims on the matter, which the company obstinately turned down. The fund brought several suits against the Volna, which were examined in Murmansk to be forwarded on to Moscow, Vaghis Khakimov said during the questioning four years ago.

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